Discontent makes it red hot in Alex

Elizabeth Dikotla's face broke into a pained grimace as she shouted: "Satisfied? How can you ask if I am satisified with this government?"

This will be the fourth Christmas Mrs Dikotla, 49, her four children and two grandchildren will spend living like refugees in the old municipal offices of Alexandra township - Alex to the inhabitants.Like 3,000 other families in Alexandra, the Dikotlas were driven out of their home in an area known as "Beirut" during fighting in 1990 between the African National Congress and the Inkatha Freedom Party of Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

When Nelson Mandela led the ANC to victory in South Africa's first all-race elections in April, Mrs Dikotla believed her prayers of returning home would be answered. They have not. Inkatha supporters still inhabit Beirut, and Mrs Dikotla says, "We in Alexandra have been forgotten."

The sense that the ANC-led government of national unity has forgotten South Africa's largely impoverished black majority is spreading rapidly in townships like Alexandra, where the Congress won 95 per cent of the vote in April.

It is a message that residents of Alexandra hope will catch the attention of the 3,000 delegates gathering today for a five-day national congress in Bloemfontein where the organisation was born in 1912. High on the agenda will be elections for six seniorposts and more than 50 members of the policy-making National Executive Committee. So will discussion of a "Strategy and Tactics" document written by Thabo Mbeki, who is expected to win election as the ANC's deputy president and effectively as heir to MrMandela's throne.

People in Alexandra, however, said they were tired of discussions and wanted more action. "I am not even thinking about Bloemfontein, who is running against whom in elections. Who cares?" said a 34-year-old shopowner who refused to be named. "The government must start doing something concrete."